Artist of the Month: Jacob Hendrik Pierneef

“In the first half of the 1900s, works by artists from this kaleidoscope of ancestral backgrounds flourished. Irma Stern, who some consider our greatest artist, was heavily influenced by German impressionists. Jacob Pierneef, my personal favourite South African artist whose pictures are in the lounge, captured the South African landscape in a unique way. Only someone with a deep love of the country could say, and I quote in English “bury me under the camel thorn tree with its masculine features above and its roots deep in Africa’s soil”. Through the strength of his view of the African Wilderness, unpopulated by humans, he has shaped the way we view our landscape. Pierneef makes us analyse the build-up of the summer storm clouds above flat-topped Acacia trees in the bushveld through his very personal view.” – Paul Harris, owner of Ellerman House.

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef is considered the best of the old South African landscape masters and his distinctive style makes his work immediately recognisable. He mainly focused on painting the Highveld region and Transvaal, now known as Gauteng.


Pierneef’s style was to simplify the landscape and create geometric structures by using flat planes, lines and colour to represent the harmony and order of nature. This resulted in ordered and often monumental views of the uninhabited landscape with very dramatic contrasts between the natural light and shaded areas. The characteristic Acacia tree that has become known as the Pierneef tree dominates the majority of his landscapes. His first exhibition in 1902 was well received and by 1913 he was considered a genius artist.

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